However, they are only above Wigan Athletic on goal difference and their position becomes even more tenuous given that the Latics have two games in hand.
Manager Nigel Adkins will know that his side are underdogs compared to Wigan to finish in the top six now but, with Nottingham Forest just a point above them, there are two places up for grabs.
The Royals have played more games than the two teams directly below them in the table, making it even more important that they pick up points to keep the pressure on the likes of Wigan and Brighton.
Their form has been patchy of late, with two wins, two draws and two defeats in their last six outings, but they will be looking to take advantage of a dip in form for Derby to make it back-to-back victories in the league.
One increasing worry for Adkins is their home form as they have failed to win their last three matches at the Madejski, picking up just one point and scoring one goal in that time.
Indeed, the Royals have amassed more points on their travels this season than they have in front of their own fans.
Adkins is likely to stick with the same side that comfortably saw off Leeds in midweek, with Hal Robson-Kanu playing in a false nine position.
Derby, meanwhile, have struck a poor run of form at the worst possible time, leaving them eight points behind Burnley in the race for an automatic promotion spot.
The Rams looked to be favourites for a top-two finish at the start of the month, but defeat to the Clarets was followed by a shock 1-0 loss at home to Millwall last weekend and a goalless draw against Bolton on Tuesday.
That represents their worst run of the season so far, and they now sit just two points above fourth-placed Queens Park Rangers having played a game more.
Manager Steve McClaren will be desperate for a return to winning ways as soon as possible, while he would also like to see his side rediscover their form in front of goal.
Derby are no longer the league's top scorers having failed to find the back of the net in their last three outings, while the last time that they managed more than one goal in a game was on February 1.
Their away form has faltered too with just one win in their last five outings on the road, including costly defeats to fellow high flyers Burnley and Leicester.
However, they do still have the second best away record in the league this season, with only runaway leaders Leicester amassing more points on their travels.
Possible starting lineups
Reading: McCarthy; Gunter, Pearce, Gorkss, Obita; Drenthe, McCleary, Akpan, Guthrie, McAnuff; Robson-Kanu
Derby: Grant; Wisdom, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Hughes, Eustace, Bryson; Bamford, Martin, Ward
Sports Mole says: 2-2